Antigonish, NS – The StFX X-Men overcame the visiting Saint Mary's Huskies by a 6-5 score line in a high scoring affair Saturday night at the Charles V. Keating Centre. With the win the X-Men kept the U SPORTS No. 4 ranked Huskies at bay from clinching an AUS first round bye.
The game saw five goals scored in each of the second and third periods with X-Men defenceman Cole MacDonald (Wetaskiwin, AB) potting the game-winner with 3:50 left to play in the game.
The Saint Mary's Huskies controlled the opening frame and led 1-0 after 20 minutes. The high-flying line of Hunter Garlent (Thorold, ON), Anthony Repaci (Brooklin, ON), and Jake Coughler (St. Catherine's ON) dominated possession. They forced rookie netminder Blade Mann-Dixon (Antigonish, NS) to make a number of saves to keep the score close.
While the Huskies outshot the X-Men by a wide 22-5 margin, it was an individual effort by Stephen Jonson (Moncton, NB) that put the Huskies up by one. With StFX on the man-advantage, the Huskies penalty killers stifled the X-Men, who were unable to establish control in the SMU zone. Johnson was perfectly positioned to block an attempted pass and went in all alone on Mann-Dixon. Mann-Dixon made the initial pad save, but Johnson picked up the rebound and deposited in into the net.
The second period saw the StFX power-play find its stride with two goals to help the X-Men keep pace with the fast and fluid Huskies as the teams were tied at three after 40 minutes of play.
The X-Men had a 5-on-3 for 1:05, which the Huskies did well to kill, but a seeing eye shot through traffic by Matt Needham (Penticton, BC) beat Marc Therriault (Montreal, QC) to tie the game at one.
Just past the halfway mark, power forward Aaron Berisha scored for the Huskies. He took a cross ice pass and forced Mann-Dixon to make a great stick save and force a draw in the X zone. A key face-off win by SMU led to Berisha wiring a shot into the open net.
The resilient X-Men resorted effectively to longer cross-ice passes to help draw even. Studnicka made a great pass to a streaking Mark Tremaine (Dartmouth, NS) who coolly slotted it into the net to tie the game at 2-2.
The X-Men took their first lead of the game when their skilled puck movement with the man advantage resulted in a deserved goal. Fifth year forward Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS) found the open net as a result of precise passes from Cook and Needham.
Knotted at three goals a piece heading into what would amount to a thrilling third period for the close to one thousand fans in attendance. The first of period's five goals came four and a half minutes in via a clean Stephen Johnson face-off. The puck went straight to the stick of Conor McGlynn (Oakvillve, ON) who wristed a shot into the top corner.
StFX did not take long to respond as Cianfrone showed poise as he entered the zone in firm control of the puck and calmly picked out Holden Cook whose shot was destined for the back of the net.
Just 24 seconds later, Saint Mary's would regain the lead. On an assist from the veteran defenceman Austyn Hardie (Halifax, NS), Logan DeNoble (Peterborough, ON) flew down the wing eluding all X players and put a low hard shot on net that escaped Mann-Dixon.
StFX captain Tremaine, showed why he is a strong two-way player when he scored his second goal of the evening. The X-Men took advantage of a Huskies icing when Studnicka controlled the draw and Tremaine soon found himself behind the SMU net and made a great second effort to put the puck past Theriault, tying the game at 5-5 and setting the stage for a dramatic finish.
StFX's MacDonald (Wetaskawin, AB) almost connected with Nathan Pancel (Ottawa, ON), but McGlyn's timely pass intervention kept the score even. A late Huskies power play saw them move the puck well and their best scoring chance went to freshman Nicolas Welsh (Halifax, NS) as his point shot found the outstretched glove of Mann-Dixon.
Later on, Johnson rang a shot off the cross-bar, much to the relief of the Antigonish faithful. The game was on a knife-edge with under four minutes remaining when MacDonald advanced with the puck through the Huskies defence before finally putting his well-timed shot past Theriault.
Down but not out, the Huskies pinned the puck in the StFX zone for the final two minutes of play. The skill of the Huskies puck control was equally matched by the X-Men's effort, best exemplified by Adam Stevens (Bedford, NS), whose three blocked shots in the final minutes helped StFX hold on for the narrow goal victory.
Mann-Dixon put up another solid performance in the StFX net with 44 saves on the night. Theriault had 23 saves as the Huskies outshot the X-Men 49-29.
Tremaine earned first star and Subway player of the game honours for his three-point effort. The Huskies Johnson was second star and Stevens was the third star of the game.
Both teams are back in action Saturday evening. StFX will travel to Wolfville, N.S. to play the Acadia Axemen, while Saint Mary's is back in Halifax to face-off against their cross-town rivals Dalhousie Tigers.
The Huskies currently sit in second place in the AUS standings, four points ahead of third place StFX. A win against Dalhousie will clinch them the second spot and earn a first round bye in the AUS playoffs. Regular season play concludes next weekend.
Courtesy Bart Sears, StFX Sports Information